Whether you're a seasoned dungeon master or a fresh-faced player, there's one crucial step that can make or break your TRPG experience: Session 0. In this blog post, we're going to explore why it's essential and how to navigate it like a pro.
What is Session 0, Anyway?
Before we dive into the why's and how's, let's clarify what Session 0 actually is. Think of it as the pre-game meeting where everyone gets together to discuss and prepare for the upcoming RPG campaign. It can be thought of as a character creation session, but with a broader scope. Session 0 is all about setting expectations, building consensus, and creating a collaborative atmosphere where everyone feels heard.
Why Bother with Session 0?
Alignment of Expectations: Picture this: You're ready for a high-fantasy epic with knights, dragons, and magic galore, but the rest of your group was envisioning a gritty noir detective story in a dystopian city. As you get ready to smite a murder suspect, everyone else is complaining that you’re costing them a precious lead. A Session 0 can help avoid such misalignments that can make a table unpleasant. It gets everyone on the same page before you start writing the book.
Character Harmony: No one wants the party's chaotic rogue stealing from the party's lawful good paladin. During Session 0, you can discuss character backstories, motivations, and group dynamics to ensure everyone's characters can coexist harmoniously. This is also a chance to make sure that the characters are likely to work together, and for players to make changes before they become attached to their ideas of who their character is.
House Rules and Table Etiquette: Different DMs and groups may have their own rules or customs. Some DMs may embrace the rule of cool and play things loosely, while others prefer to stick to the book to ensure things stay balanced. Players expecting the former are going to feel their fun curtailed when the DM says no to their plans, and a player expecting the latter might feel blindsided if they realise months in that they’d had opportunities to challenge the rules all along. Session 0 is the perfect time to lay these out on the table (literally). Whether it's a ban on PvP (player versus player) or a custom dice-rolling ritual, these discussions can prevent surprises and ensure everyone plays nicely together.
Topics to Cover in Session 0
Now that you're sold on the importance of Session 0, let's talk about what to cover during this critical gathering:
Campaign Setting: Discuss the world, its history, and any homebrew elements. Share maps, lore, and any important plot points. It's like getting a sneak peek at the game board. This sets genre expectations and also helps to hook players into the game ahead.
Character Creation: Collaboratively build characters, discuss character backgrounds, and establish how the characters know each other. This helps weave individual stories into the overarching narrative.
House Rules: Clarify any rule modifications, homebrew content, or optional rules you'll be using. Everyone should be on the same page regarding the game mechanics. It is never pleasant when someone tries to do something creative three sessions in and the game has to stop for a debate about whether it’s allowed.
Session Schedule: Set expectations for how often you'll play, when, and where. Discuss what the protocol is for when one or more players can't make it. Do you play with one player down? Or is this a game that will always need every player present to progress? This ensures everyone can commit to the campaign schedule.
Game Tone and Themes: Define the mood and themes of the campaign. Is it dark and serious, light-hearted and humorous, or something in between? Make sure everyone is comfortable with the chosen tone.
Player Expectations: Discuss what each player wants to experience in the campaign. Whether it's epic battles, character development, political intrigue, romance, or humour, understanding these desires can lead to a more enjoyable game for everyone.
Table Etiquette: Establish norms for respectful and inclusive play. Discuss how to handle conflicts, out-of-character issues, and ensure everyone has a chance to shine in the spotlight.
Remember, Session 0 is like the prologue to your RPG adventure. It's a chance to bond with your fellow players, shape the world, and set the stage for the epic tales to come. So, gather around the virtual or physical table, share your ideas, and embark on a journey of a lifetime!